Having just watched J.C. Chandor’s latest film, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, I was yet again reminded of how easily terrific filmmakers and layered storytellers get tossed aside in the face of all the brouhaha that are the Oscars.
A MOST VIOLENT YEAR is a terrific film with complex characters that don’t offer simple answers to difficult questions. It is also a film I was told by a number of friends to “pass” on. That’s what I was also told about Chandor’s ALL IS LOST. I almost missed both films and I am SO thrilled that I didn’t as both hold places in my favorite films of their respective years. You can read my review and commentary on ALL IS LOST here.
For me, the fact that films like these are passed over or ignored in favor of what I would consider far “lesser” fare, is the perfect example of why the Oscars are more lowest-common-denominator popularity contest than representation of great cinema. I guess I’ll just have to stick with The Cannes Film Festival to offer a more open-minded and inclusive award and ceremony. Even if I don’t agree with every choice Cannes juries make, they are at least representing those who genuinely love film in all its forms and have the ability, knowledge and history to make informed decisions based on something more than “ease of viewing.”
For example, Timothy Spall won Best Actor at Cannes for his role in MR. TURNER, a film that tops my favorites-of-2014 list. Spall was not nominated at the Oscars or the British BAFTA Awards. Shocking, given the caliber of performance in a film that artistically and cinematically surpassed every other biopic nominated by either Academy.
And though both Academies relegate most non-English Language films to special sections and rarely do any of these films crossover into the more “mainstream” awards (unless they have a prestigious domestic distributor with the money to send out screeners, run TV ads and vigorously sell the shit out of the film to Academy voters), there is a world of cinema out there that represents the more global presence of film as well as an incredible open door to the world outside our borders and other human beings with which we have so much in common.
The top prize at Cannes, the Palme d’Or, was awarded to a film titled WINTER SLEEP, which only received a limited run in the U.S. at the end of December and was no where to be seen at the Academy Awards. The Grand Prix Award was given to THE WONDERS, a film that still has not made it to American shores outside of film festivals. Even veteran and world-renowned filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard’s GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE, which has been released all across the globe and shared the Jury Prize at Cannes, did not find distribution in the U.S. and only recently found its way into a select few art house screenings.
The U.S. is a very limited market for film and its audience not well-versed in cinematic language beyond the most rudimentary. So for me, it’s even sadder when terrific films like A MOST VIOLENT YEAR cannot find its deserved attention despite being in the English language and having screeners sent out to voters by U.S. distributor A24 who, it seems, can’t compete for market attention with the larger, richer domestic distributors. A24 also brought us extraordinary films like LOCKE and UNDER THE SKIN last year, both horrifically absent in all categories at the Academy Awards.